ultra marathons

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You’ve spent a season training for your big race. You’ve put in hours and hours on the road or trail, you’ve run your race, gotten your medal and posted your accomplishment on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Now what?

First, it’s normal to have a bit of a letdown after achieving a big-deal-whoopie running goal. So much of your time and energy has been focused on getting to the start line that few of us spend much — if any — time thinking about what comes next.

What’s a runner chico or chica to do? That’s why I’m writing about the most challenging aspect of running right now for the Tuesdays on the Run link-up hosted by runner bloggers MCM Mama Runs, My No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice.

For me, it’s figuring out what to do after meeting a big audacious running goal, so I turned to my runner friends. Here’s what they said:

Kari: I’m new to running as of last October so I have some hefty goals ahead of me. With that being said, I started small and my race distances just keep growing. Is there really a limit? I truly don’t think so. Only thing that is limiting is our imagination and belief in ourselves. If a new runner sees a 100 miler in their future, I’d say “you got this” and encourage. Setting a new goal (signing up) is what has kept me motivated to succeed.

Erinn: Set another goal. A smaller goal — but still a challenge goal. Like best 5k (work on speedwork) or another fitness goal like pull ups, more paddle boarding for core strength, and all the while looking at other options. Word of mouth is the best way to ultra. If another runner tells you that “you’ll like this race,” heed their advice.

Shannon: I’ve both taken time off and just ran for health. I’ve also gone bigger and longer. Currently, I’m racing a lot, and I look forward to late November when I don’t have any more planned races. But the reality is that in November I’ll feel like I have no direction and I’ll feel lost, just like the last time I didn’t have any goal race scheduled.

Emily: I kind of just keep training for the next thing, even if it’s smaller than the big goal race, it helps keep me moving. Though, in autumn I don’t really need to extra motivation. The perfect weather is usually enough to get me moving because it’s just so beautiful.

Barb: I make a new goal after a big race. I already know what my next goal is, speed. I now know I can do the distance but now I want to get faster.

Janet: After the big goal, relax, enjoy the time and then get back to running. I run because I’ve experienced life when I couldn’t run and that sucks! So run because you can.

Corey: I’m typically depressed and irritable and eat non-stop until I sign up for the next big race. Running Grand Rapids marathon Oct. 23 which will qualify me for marathon maniacs, a goal I set for 2016. I’m looking now for my next big goal after that though, otherwise I’ll fall into winter holiday hibernation and gain 10 lbs.

Samantha: Bringing down the miles and giving our bodies a break is healthy. But … I’m scouring the Internet for upcoming races because I’m feeling crazy.

As for me, I haven’t yet decided what I’ll do next, whether I’ll be focusing on distance or speed, for example. But what I do know is that I’ll take a cue from my mentors Brandess, Janet and Shannon: I’ll be focusing on helping my friends reach their goals. Because that’s what I love the best about running: other runners.

What’s the most difficult aspect of running for you right now? Feel free to share your own blog posts below. (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

Running advice roundup

by lachicaruns on

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I’ve been very fortunate that running has brought many gifts, including a plethora of runner friends. In particular, I’ve been blessed with very experienced runner friends who’ve mentored and encouraged me.

Thanks to them, I’ve learned a bunch of lessons, often without going through the pain of making too many mistakes. As part of today’s Tuesdays on the Run link-up hosted by runner bloggers MCM Mama Runs, My No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice, I am sharing some of the best running advice I’ve gathered. Be sure to click on the hyperlink to read more:

I can no longer say I’m a newbie, but I continue to need my runner tribe as I continue on this journey. Hopefully, you can learn a thing or two as I do.

What’s been some of the best running advice you’ve gotten? Feel free to share your post here if you’ve written about this topic before. (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

lessons-learned-at-my-first-ultra-marathon

This 44-year-old just ran for more than 31 miles through trails so muddy that moving forward felt more like skating than running, hills steep enough to leave her winded and for so many hours (more than 10) that just about any GPS watch would have died. Just a week after doing the Run Woodstock 50K, I’m still a bit shell shocked but pretty darn proud of myself and my runner friends who took on this challenge.

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Rain = muddy trails.

Through all of that, I learned a few things. Things that I hope will help anyone new to running longer distances or even someone training for their first ultra marathon:

Trust — and follow — the training plan. I happen to have a one-track mind, so printing off a training plan or putting all of the runs on my calendar and scratching them off helps me stick to the plan for weeks on end. This was probably the most important thing I did to prepare to run such a long distance, just four years after I began running using the Couch to 5K app. I was tired and sore for a few days after the race, but I also recovered quicker than I have for previous 26.2 mile runs.

Run Woodstock map.

Run Woodstock map.

Ultra-marathon aid stations are the bestest. My ultra runner friends pretty much dangled the promise of potato chips, soda and M&Ms as the incentive for us newbies to sign up for the race in the first place. The spread (which also included cheese sandwiches, pretzels, fruit and other yummy food) did not disappoint. This particular race had aid stations every four miles, allowing us to break the 31 miles into more-manageable goals, which makes for a great head-game strategy.

The Run Woodstock utra marathon aid stations served as a huge incentive to keep going.

The Run Woodstock utra marathon aid stations served as a huge incentive to keep going.

The volunteers are even better. Aid station volunteers are more akin to a NASCAR pit crew. They approached us, immediately helping us find just the perfect treat to give us a boost, talking about the course and in one instance, even giving their socks off their feet to a runner who was struggling with blisters.

Charlotte, an experienced long-distance runner, raised our spirits.

Charlotte, an experienced long-distance runner, raised our spirits.

Your body will rebel. Rain and mud can leave one’s feet soaked, meaning a high chance for blisters. Water retention was pretty common, giving several of us the tell-tale sausage fingers. I’m not sure how to address this in the future, but I suspect I need to take in more salt and fluids, both.

Sausage fingers.

Sausage fingers.

The drop bag is better than CatsTo get the full 31 miles, this race had us run the same loop twice, meaning we could have a drop bag at the beginning and also halfway through the loop. I was fortunate enough to have Brandess’ tips for packing a drop bag, so I was prepared. When we found out we could have two bags, we included a fresh pair of trail shoes and socks in the bag halfway through the course, allowing us to switch out shoes for the last five or six miles. My feet and mood were both grateful.

I cut up plastic binder dividers, wrote my information on them with a Sharpie, and tied them to my drop bags so I could find them.

I cut up plastic binder dividers, wrote my information on them with a Sharpie, and tied them to my drop bags so I could find them.

Runner friends will see you through anything. Not only did I get to run with the best runner friends in the universe, but a couple of our friends who didn’t even have a race traveled with us, cheered us on, took lots of pictures and video, and even helped one of us change out of her shoes after our ultra. Yes. Seriously.

Our friend Michelle helps one of our runners change out her shoes after the race. Not pictured is our friend Janet who cheered all of us and recorded the day's events for posterity.

Our friend Michelle helps one of our runners change out her shoes after the race. Not pictured is our friend Janet who cheered us on and captured the day’s events for posterity.

You are stronger than you thought. I may have felt better than I thought I would, but running for more than 10 hours took a toll on my body. I was tired and hungry. I just wanted to take a hot shower, eat all the food and go to bed. But my body did carry me through 31 miles without failing me. Our friend Vicky got hit by a falling branch. Shannon was stung by a couple of bees and picked up an unfortunate case of poison ivy. We saw 100K and 100-mile runners who were barely shuffling along. But we all kept going and met up at the finish line.

My friends Shannon and Vicki finishing the 50K, even after getting hit by a branch, stung by a bee and getting poison ivy.

My friends Shannon and Vicki finishing the 50K, even after getting hit by a branch, stung by a bee and getting poison ivy.

Our friend Corey stuck with Melissa to make sure she finished her first 50K.

Our friend Corey stuck with Melissa to make sure she finished her first 50K.

There’s no miracle recovery cure. I rested a lot the day after the race, but made sure to stretch, use the foam roller and put my legs up the wall. I also drank tons of water and took Aleve on the second day, typically my hardest post-race muscle-pain day. The closest thing to a cure, however, is a sports massage, which inevitably gives me fresh legs. Ahh, relief.

While most of my familia and friends thought I was nuts for attempting my first ultra marathon, the whole event was a huge success. I’m not yet committing to my next one, but I am certainly glad that I got to this one and hope it inspires you to sign up for your first 50K if it wasn’t on your radar before.

What have you learned from running your longest distance? Feel free to share a blog post if you’ve written about this topic before. (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

This week’s dinner menu

by lachicaruns on

After the thrill of last weekend’s Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Run, the rest of the week’s been a blur of back-to-school, work and getting ready for this weekend’s Run Woodstock 50K.

I set out all of my gear last night, just to make sure I read Brandess Wallace’s helpful tips on what to pack for an ultra.

Flat chica for the Run Woodstock 50K.

Flat chica for the Run Woodstock 50K.

I also packed two drop bags, making sure to use Brandess’s handy drop bag guide. You can print out the list to pack your own: 10 drop bag essentials.

As for my carrot? I packed both Double Stuf Oreos and kettle chips.

Because some days, you run for the kettle chips.

Because some days, you run for the kettle chips.

If I forgot something, then I didn’t really need it.

I’m taking a moment in the middle of my packing extravaganza to to share the week’s dinner menu since I had to plan way ahead knowing the last thing I’ll want to do Sunday night will be meal planning and grocery shopping. If you’re new here, this is how I plan our meals.

What are your weekend plans? What’s the farthest you’ve ever run? 

ultra marathon drop bagOne of my favorite things about running is that there are always new challenges and experiences, no matter how long one has been pounding the pavement. Another is the wonderful experienced runners — like my running mentor and friend Brandess Wallace — who support us newbies and answer our endless questions.

Brandess has already shared her 10 must-haves for your first ultra marathon and today she’s sharing her top 10 ultra marathon drop bag essentials. You can even print out a list to make sure you don’t forget anything: 10 drop bag essentials.

  1. Change of shoes. Depending on the race, the course has the potential to have anything from muddy horse trails to waist-deep water crossings. Even on courses with ideal terrain, having a change of shoes can be just what your achy feet need. During my 50 miler, after 34 miles in my Brooks Cascadia trail shoes I could feel every rock on the trail with each step. I switched them out for a pair of Hokas for the final 16 miles and the relief was remarkable.
  2. Change of socks. Running in wet socks is pretty much the worst. I don’t have many sensory issues, but the feeling of running in wet socks gives me nightmares. Always carry an extra pair, just in case.
  3. Change of clothing. Weather conditions can vary from the start to the end of a race. For races in Michigan, temps tend to be cooler in the mornings and gradually increase throughout the day. Pack accordingly. Check the forecast. Have a light jacket or poncho packed in case of rain.
  4. Band-Aids/moleskin. Hot spots and blisters often pop up when running more than 26.2 miles. Moleskin is great at creating a barrier between blisters and whatever is causing the discomfort.
  5. Vaseline/Body Glide. Chafe happens. Reapply as needed. I usually experience chafing along my bra line in the front and back. A friend of mine suggested applying kinesiology tape on those areas as a preventative measure and it works! Yay, no more unsightly scars!
  6. Baby wipes. Great for cleaning up any dirt, bugs and sweat that have accumulated on your body during the race.
  7. Sunscreen/bug spray. Applying at the start will probably not be enough for the entire duration of the race. I pack travel sized bottles of each that don’t take up very much space in my bag.
  8. Electrolyte tabs. Depending on the weather, you may be losing electrolytes faster than your body can replace them with Gatorade alone. Electrolyte tabs will help prevent and alleviate any cramping that may occur during the race.
  9. Fuel. Yes, there is LOTS of great food to fuel with at the aid stations, but like a boy scout, it is always smart to “Be Prepared.” Whatever you already use to fuel during a traditional marathon, make sure to pack for your ultra. You never know if the fueling options at the aid stations are not going to agree with your body. I can’t imagine potato chips and gummy bears not agreeing with someone, but you never know!
  10. Your carrot! This is the one thing that will help you get to the end if you are in the deepest running funk ever. For my first ultra, I packed four things: HARIBO gummy bears; Fritos corn chips; a photo of me and my brother who had passed away 12 years ago the day of the race; and a photo of my husband who was on deployment with the U.S. Army at the time. I knew I had those items waiting for me at the drop bag point. They boosted my morale and gave me motivation for the final stretch of the race. Take some time to really think about what your carrot is and make sure you include it in your bag.
Brandess included family photos in her drop bag.

Brandess included family photos in her drop bag.

Brandess, a few of our favorite runners and I are running the Run Woodstock 50K in a couple of weeks. Thanks to her, I will certainly be among the most prepared for whatever may come that day. Thanks, chica!

Are you an experienced ultra marathoner? What else would you add to this list of ultra marathon drop bag necessities? Feel free to share your blog post link below if you’ve written about this before. (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)